You hear a noise coming from your car or something smells bad or doesn’t work. There’s definitely something wrong, and your car needs to go into the shop. But before heading out the door it’s a good idea to do a little homework first. Being educated about your vehicle doesn’t take much time and can put you in a much better position to make the right decision when it comes to repairs. Let’s talk about what you need to know when it’s time for a vehicle repair.
It’s good to have a mechanic you can trust. That said, just showing up and asking, “What’s wrong and how much will it cost to fix?” is probably not your best move. Even if the mechanic or garage is as honest as they come, you can still help them do their job and save money by providing some basic information.
Turn to the internet and look up the symptoms your car is experiencing. Pick three websites with good reputations and take notes. If they all say that symptom A is caused by a problem with part B, you’ve given your mechanic a starting point. You can also look for discussion forums that specialize in your exact vehicle model. It may be worth the time to join the discussion and ask questions about your particular problem. Often in these communities well known problems have been documented along with their repairs. It also helps to know you aren’t alone when trouble strikes.
Research can also help you figure out when to get the repair done — right away or several weeks down the line — but some repairs should not be put off.
You can also get a ballpark idea of costs for parts and labor before you pick up the phone to the garage. This can prepare you for the bill as well as arm you with questions to ask if something in the estimate doesn’t seem right.
Consult the Manual
Do-it-yourselfers know the joys and convenience of owning a repair and maintenance manual specific to your vehicle. Even if you never pick up a wrench, having the same official source of information the garage uses keeps you dialed in. The parts you need for any given repair are detailed in the manual as are procedures for vehicle repair and, in many cases, estimates for how long a given job should take. Plus, the shop manual might make simple DIY repairs less intimidating.
It’s never fun when a vehicle needs repair. Just remember, knowledge conquers fear. Good luck!
Check out all the repair and maintenance manuals available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on vehicle repair, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.